Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
Rated PG-13, 119 minutes.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, David Denman, Jack Quaid, Brian Gleeson, Farrah Mackenzie, Jim O’Heir, Dwight Yoakam, Sebastian Stan and Seth MacFarlane
What do you get when you assemble a winning team such as Channing Tatum as a football star turned family man, Adam Driver as a hilarious one-armed bartender, Daniel Craig as a demolitions expert with a Slim Shady hairdo, and director Steven Soderbergh (OCEAN’S trilogy) pointing them toward victory?
You get LOGAN LUCKY, one of the funniest and most explosive movies of the year.
This marks the first of Soderbergh’s theatrical releases since 2013’s well-wound thriller SIDE EFFECTS, also starring Tatum. Soderbergh had previously announced his retirement from feature filmmaking for the screen, turning his focus to television and producing. After seeing LOGAN LUCKY, you’ll be happy that he’s back on the film medium track.
Written by first-time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt (possibly a pseudonym for Soderbergh or some other ghost writer), LOGAN LUCKY follows Jimmy Logan (Tatum), a West Virginia simpleton who is released from his mining job due to an undisclosed injury from his days throwing the pigskin. Before his untimely layoff, he was a contract worker digging an underground system of pneumatic tubes for the Charlotte Motor Speedway, through which the venue sends all its cash. The tangle of tubes presents the perfect opportunity for some felonious cats to bag some dough.
Determined to build a bright future for himself and his Rihanna-fixated daughter (a cute Farrah Mackenzie), Jimmy gets the idea of doing just that with all his inside information. He recruits his ex-military brother Clyde (Driver), his hairstylist sister Mellie (Riley Keough of Mad Max: FURY ROAD) and the aptly named Joe Bang (a flamboyant Craig) to rob the joint before its biggest race of the year: the Coca-Cola 600.
The best way to describe LOGAN LUCKY is by inevitable comparison to Soderbergh’s OCEAN’S 11 (Soderbergh hangs a lampshade on the parallel when a news reporter calls the backcountry thieves’ heist “Ocean’s 7/11”). It has all the intensity of that George Clooney-starring film, but instead of seeing a bunch of hyper-competent Jason Bourne-like professionals, we get a handful of average Joes who (though more sly than they appear) are thick as bricks. Their lack of comprehension and absurd reactions to extremities paint a smile on your face that won’t quit.
Much of the film’s traction comes from its humor. Scenes such as Joe Bang spelling out how he can’t help the Logan brothers while he’s “incarcerated” and Joe’s brothers (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson) explaining how they know about computers and “all the Twitters” will have you falling over in your seat. By the end, you just might think you’ve seen the most quotable movie of the year, especially because every line comes from characters with deep Southern accents.
The well-oiled characters and performances are another victory under this film’s belt. The trailer hinted at Craig being the show-stopping character, and as great as he is stripping away all his James Bond suaveness to play an obnoxious jailbird, Driver (upcoming STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI) gives the MVP performance. His slow manner of speech and sharp wit leave a lasting sting.
Smaller roles also sneak in a few chuckles, featuring Seth MacFarlane (creator of FAMILY GUY) as an Instagram-loving British sports-car magnate and David Denman (THE OFFICE) as Jimmy’s daughter’s car-dealing stepfather.
Since so much of the film hits the gas pedal in terms of main plotting and character, it’s a bit underwhelming when Soderbergh slips in some unnecessary baggage. An ill-placed love story between Jimmy and a community medic named Sylvia (Katherine Waterston of ALIEN: COVENANT) cross into the wrong lane, while a late-entering Hilary Swank shows up with Macon Blair (BLUE RUIN) to play a pair of strait-laced FBI agents with a hunch.
LOGAN LUCKY’s tires may wear thin from time to time, but its comedy, performances, and high-octane energy keep it in the race. There’s simply too much fun to be had for the film to be lost in the late-summer shuffle.
LOGAN LUCKY opens nationwide on Friday (8/18).